What Is the Best Sunscreen for Endurance Athletes?

Cynthia Bailey, MD|August 12, 2013

Ironman Vineman Triathlon 2013 Endurance athletes have a real challenge sun protecting their skin because they're in the sun for hours under extreme conditions. During a race, it is important to use only the most reliable and very best sunscreens because you’re depending entirely on sunscreen to sun protect your skin. Triathletes here in the Sun Belt of California undergo particularly extreme exposure conditions because of our UV intensity. Our office manager Michael just finished the Vineman Triathlon this summer and he put our tough, high-performance mineral zinc oxide sunscreens to the test. Our zinc oxide products passed with flying colors, keeping his fair skin from burning in the California sun.   Here are the sunscreens that Michael used for the 2013 Vineman Race: He applied Solbar Zinc Sunscreen once to the exposed skin on his body and Raw Elements Eco Stick to his facial skin. He chose the Raw Elements for his face because it doesn’t migrate into the eyes when you swim or sweat. During the race, he was not able to reapply sunscreen and yet these rugged zinc oxide products kept him from sun burning. Solbar Zinc Water Resistant Dermatologist Recommended for Endurance Sports Raw Elements Sunscreen non-migrating and won't sting eyes                   The proof is in the pictures! Michael had great finish in both races, but in 2009 he also had a really bad sunburn and in 2013 Michael finished without the burn.  


                  In 2009, before Michael worked here at DrBaileySkinCare.com and Advanced Skin Care and Dermatology, Inc., he used a “generic spray-on sunscreen” for the Vineman Race. It didn't work well and he burned badly. His sun protection was an entirely different story in 2013 because our zinc oxide sunscreens really performed well. The bottom line is that when you’re out in the sun for hours, whether you’re competing, watching, or working at an event, you need a high-performance product that gives you trusted sun protection.

  • In my opinion as a dermatologist, that means you need to use a mineral zinc oxide product.
  • Look for a product that has a minimum of 5% zinc oxide (the more the better) and that matches your skin type (oily or dry).
  • If you’re going to be wet or sweaty, pick a water-resistant product.
  • Don’t trust your skin to a “generic” a spray or a chemical sunscreen product because they are more fragile, breaking down in the bottle and in the sun.

You need mineral zinc oxide sun protection when you trust your skin entirely to your sunscreen for protection. 

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